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Is it possible to Fail on a Personal Training Program?

By Glen Peavey

The question bears repeating. Is it possible to fail (to achieve results) on a personal training program? I would like to think that it would certainly be difficult to fail completely, however I have seen some folks come mighty close.

In order to define failure we first need to agree on the results we are seeking in the first place. I always tell prospective clients that the easiest result to achieve is the attainment of strength. To get stronger you merely need to show up often enough and allow yourself to be challenged to some extent. This sounds easy doesn’t it?

It has always been my belief that most people train too long and too often. On the other hand, contrary to the opinion of some, it is possible to work out too infrequently. This is even truer in the beginning when a trainee can take advantage of more frequent training. As an individual becomes stronger and workouts become more intense (as they must) there usually is a need for reduced training frequency. In addition, sessions often need to be abbreviated in order to avoid overtraining. However as a novice it is very important to train often enough to lay down the skill and conditioning needed to take it to the next level (harder and generally less frequent training).

Without question, the number one cause of failure is missing too many workouts. There are situations where missing a session is acceptable. The one that comes to my mind first is that of having a fever. In my opinion high intensity exercise should always be avoided when a fever is assumed. The stress of the workout combined with the stress of combating the illness will frequently result in prolonging or worsening the condition. There are some people who have a hard time justifying a day off, but more common is the person who takes too many days off. Everyone gets occasional aches and pains. Most of them are not worthy of a missed session. Almost any difficulty can be “worked around”. Sessions can be modified to accommodate low energy levels as well. When you’re only exercising once or twice a week, you cannot afford missed sessions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client take me aside and say, “I don’t think I’m getting the results I want”. When we review their attendance we find they’re averaging 2–3 sessions per month (sometimes less). It is extraordinarily difficult to see results on an agenda like that. Usually they’re amazed to see how many workouts they’ve missed.

If you exercise like most people, (too often and too long) a missed workout is not a setback. As a matter of fact it may be a plus. However if your program is properly designed, it is in your best interest to miss as few sessions as possible.